Friday, January 21, 2011


Production Order #15
Broadcast Order #10
Original Airdate: 12/2/63
Starring .
Written by Joseph Stefano.
Directed by John Erman.

A group of international soldiers on their way to Ebon are captured and thrown into an Ebonite POW camp. Can the men survive the Ebonite interrogation techniques without giving up the information the demon-like creatures are after?

JS: Finally—The evil aliens I've been trying to warn you about all along are finally here! 

PE: Yeah, but...

JS: How embarrassing is it to be captured right in the middle of your heading-into-battle pep talk?

PE: How embarrassing is it to have this episode on your IMDB credits?

JS: I'm a huge fan of the Ebonites, in part because they remind me of Stan Winston's creatures from the 1972 TV movie Gargoyles (who I favor only because I was exposed to them first)

PE: How about them capes! 

JS: Martin Sheen, doing his best whacked out Charlie Sheen impression (minus the porn stars), seemed to have a good time as the low man on the totem pole - Private Dix. It's easy to go overboard with this kind of character, but his performance always felt appropriate for the situation. I was also very excited to see James Shigeta show up as Jung, who I only knew previously as Holly McClane's boss in Die Hard.

PE: A powerful scene when Shatner... ahem, Sheen, breaks from the march and is beat down by the Head Ebonite. Obviously, his scepter is armed with spicy salsa for once Sheen is zapped in the mouth, he spends a bit of time waving his hands in front of him and sweating. Until I found out about the deadly "Salsa Ray" (from David J. Schow's The Outer Limits Companion, pg. 186), I naturally assumed this was Sheen's obligatory "set breakdown" he undergoes during every performance. I also admired his spot-on imitations of Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker and of Adam Sandler as Canteen Boy (a real trick I know but this is The Outer Limits so he can, ostensibly, see into the future, no?). Frickin' genius! Obviously, his method acting caught on since, as the show progresses (digresses?), each actor in turn gets to ham it up. Only Ed Nelson seems to know how to keep his emotions in check.

JS: This is an interesting episode, design-wise. Fortunately, it's perfectly believable that a cell might have flat ceilings and walls, as well as some bizarre yet interesting rock-like formations.

PE: I don't care how much crap I get for saying this but "Nightmare" is a nightmare from beginning to end. It's one of those bad "Four Characters in a Big Box Searching for an Exit in the Dark of the Night" episodes of The Twilight Zone. What's the big secret? We know what the hell is going on ten minutes in and all that's left is loopy dialogue (Captain Brookman to Major Jong: "Is that all you care about, Major, survival?" Jong: "That...and the smell of fog in the San Francisco night"), bad acting, weird sets, atmospheric lighting and some cool creature suits. Am I the only one who can't understand a word Lt. Krug (Sasha Harden) is saying? Are the six survivors at the climax standing in a circle listening to the Control Voice?

JS: Unfortunately, Stefano plays his cards far too early, when they show the viewing audience the two human officers in the room with the Ebonite interrogator. Whose idea was it to blow that little surprise?

PE: My L-OL moment this episode (among many): When the Head Ebonite is interrogating Dix, the Private simply mouths his name, rank and serial number (remember, he's still under the spell of Salsa). That's not good enough for the "alien" and he says so: "That won't do, Dix. Your name, rank and serial number are useful only to those Earthly relatives who will apply for your insurance." On cue, Dix's portly ma (Ernest Borgnine), from Brooklyn I assume, appears behind him, holding out her arms needily, moaning, "I want my son, not his insurance!" My new television should arrive tomorrow.

JS: Drat. Foiled again. So much for my evil alien conspiracy theory. I should have known something was up when they lowered the speaker on strings. No respectable Ebonite would have let that slip through unnoticed.

PE: Don't worry, John. When Cameron gets around to scraping the bottom of the barrel and ripping this show off, I'm sure he won't make the same mistakes. CGI!


David J. Schow on "Nightmare":

From The Outer Limits Companion, Copyright © David J. Schow, 1986, 1998.  All Rights Reserved.  Used by permission and by special arrangement with the author.

Be sure to check back later today for Larry Blamire's Spotlight on "Nightmare," and come back tomorrow for an extra-special Spotlight on the music of "Nightmare" by Larry Rapchak.

Next Up...


  1. Disclaimer: No, I’m not jumping up at 6 a.m. lurking in wait to pounce a comment on this site; I’m on the East Coast, at work in my office on a 9-5, and John and Peter’s blog just happens to pop up when I’m in prime procrastination mode having a green tea before actually doing any work. And by 6 p.m. PST (around the time the Spotlights appear), I’m couch bound already watching the next episode.

    Re: Nightmare

    According to my 14 year-old son, that set was very “ghetto.” Which I interpret to mean ‘severely financially compromised.’

    What’s remarkable to me is that this is the third episode in a row to essentially drill the military a ‘new one.' Between the jilted Bertram Cabot with the M-1 up his butt, to Colonel cowardice failing to suppress O.B.I.T., to the sheer complacency here of the high command working with aliens to deceive and torture their own personnel, it’s a pretty shocking indictment.

    For context, perhaps you go to President Eisenhower, who, before he left office at the end of 1960, warned of the vast, growing insatiable beast known as the “military industrial complex.” And this from a former general in the military. The documentary, “Why We Fight,” covers this fascinating speech. Then you have bestselling books at the time such as “Seven Days in May,” which also was made into an all-star movie (Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, etc.) showing a coup by the military. Add in the chomping at the bit desire by the high command (Curtis Lemay) to bomb the Russian missile sites popping up in Cuba in 1962 and probably launch World War III, and you have an atmosphere where you wonder who the real enemy at the height of the Cold War was – the Russians, or our own overzealous military. I just think it’s remarkable so soon after World War II and the Korean War to have all these depictions of a terribly flawed, often cowardly, ruthless, and even deceitful military.

    Looking back, I wonder what my dad (a Captain in the European theater in WWII) must have thought watching these with me. I remember what he thought about "Combat!" ... "Why don't those guys ever reload or run out of bullets?"

  2. Before this OUTER LIMITS marathon started, I would have definitely stated that the show was a big favorite of mine. But now here is the third episode in a row that I think is mediocre and not impressive at all. Why is this?

    It may be that I'm jaded and have watched the series too many times over the years. I watched it back in 1963-1965 when originally broadcast and have seen it several times since. I've also seen all the other SF shows plus hundreds of movies, many of which I have in my dvd library. I buy all the reference books as they come out and read and reread them as I'm watching the films and TV series. I read and collect all the SF and fantasy pulps, digests, paperbacks, you name it.

    Ok, so maybe I'm jaded and overloaded on SF. Plus I hate the OUTER LIMITS habit of preaching and pointing out some moralistic claptrap. NIGHTMARE was so politically correct that I was amazed there was no female soldier. I guess this was too avant garde even for 1963. There was the Asian, the African American, the Nazi rascist, the neurotic, sort of stupid private, and the poor general who gets accidently killed.

    Not to mention the apologetic alien who was so sorry that his race attacked Earth by accident. After seeing this crew of clowns, I'm sure the alien would report back to his world and say, "These earthlings are idiots. Let's attack them on purpose!"

  3. It seems to me that our hosts are getting more 'snarky' with each review. I love it! Pretty funny commentary guys, even though I did enjoy this one to some extant.

    The torture scenes were pretty powerful. Well crafted, they still hold up today, even making me a little squeamish while viewing what the soldiers went through. This was a great ensemble piece where the actors seemed to give their all. For what might be described as a simplistic plot, it had a hell of a lot going on between character interactions and shifting loyalties.

    Now for the bad. The whole Nazi confronted by the Jewish man scene (was he supposed to be a Rabbi?) seemed too Serling-esq. That really didn't bother me though. What did kind of ruin the ep. for me was the terrible coordination of the ending action sequence. I can suspend disbelief and ignore cheesy spaceships or Muppet looking bears, but I'd like my action scenes to look a bit more realistic.

    I'm not sure which was worse, the limp wristed karate chop that couldn't break a spider web, or the scene where the troops are attacking the Ebonite. It looked more like they were trying to coerce the alien into making 'sweet love' to them instead of trying to kill the bear.

    Dumb question but I have to ask: Why didn't the Asian fella state where he was from while addressing the Ebonites?

  4. That period of time also saw "Dr. Strangelove" on film and "Catch-22" in books, along with the other stuff Hollywoodaholic mentions, so the military complex was definitely taking a (probably deserved) beating all around.

    I think there are plenty of things to like about this episode. The staging is in the "bare stage" tradition of Wilder's "Our Town" and foreshadows the "environmental theater" experiments of the later 1960s, in which the focus was on emotional content and human interaction, rather than settings (the latter often encompassed audience and actors sharing the space, too, which doesn't happen here, but there are similar elements all the same). And gee, wasn't Sheen doing some of that early 70s primal scream therapy, ahead of his time? "Nightmare" certainly focuses on emotions. It's pretty tense right from the start, and the odd, electronic musical background heightens the dread. I found it easy to empathize with how alone these guys were, with no idea whatsover as to what to expect or how to prepare for it, and no way to get out, either.

    Joe Stefano is quoted in David Schow's book as saying that he was worried that "Corpus Earthling" was too frightening, but imagine the impact on younger minds that THIS one had: the aliens pulverize a guy's arm, blind another one, remove another one's heart with a giant suction tube, and drive Martin Sheen even madder than he already was! Seems to me that this was pretty grim stuff for the time.

    The utter uselessness of the experiment also underlines the horror: this "test" won't tell them anything about the reactions of soldiers in general, only about the reactions of this particular set of soldiers, who are by the end totally ruined for any future soldiering anyway. It's essentially an exercise in sadism. "We're sorry, but we don't apologize" is the funniest line here, but it kind of captures that whole single-minded, "we're the experts, so don't question us" mentality, too--the one that invariably gets us all into trouble over and over.

    The ensemble acting is pretty solid. Shigeta was the strongest, for my money, but all the others were believable, within their stock character limitations. Perhaps Sheen and Gunn seem a little high-strung, but wouldn't you be in that situation, too? Gotta give props to the oligatory Whit Bissell sighting, too. The Nazi and Korean War refs date this, as has been discussed in previous episodes, but it's what they had to work with at the time, I guess--they couldn't possibly have foreseen that we'd all be here in 2010 criticizing them for it!

    BTW, just out of curiosity, does anyone else think that Willard Sage had a strong enough resemblance to John Anderson that they could have played brothers somewhere along the line? You can't tell from this episode, since Anderson is under the Ebon makeup, but I always use to confuse the two back then (and both of them did numerous guest shots all over TV in the 60s).

    1. Yes!! I just watched a Peter Gunn episode and would have sworn that John Anderson was in it, but it was Willard Sage.

  5. UTW--I was typing my post while yours went up, so didn't see it until after. Good call on the Serling-like styling of the Nazi scene. I thought that seemed kind of familiar! As for Jong, DJS's book says that the original script designated him as a "Chinese national," but doesn't say why that was cut. I kind of like it, though--it tells something about his character that he just says his name instead of toeing the line of the others, who to that point purposely ignore the Ebon's instructions in military unanimity.

  6. A beautifully written episode, despite the cost-cutting measures that cast it as a show that could readily be re-imagined as a stage production.

    Stefano's lyrical dialogue always commands attention, if you're at all interested in how words can be as dynamic as actions, how they can crackle with poignance and poetry and emotional immediacy. And the "Sunday supplement psychology," while superficial, to be sure, is nonetheless accurate in rendering useful sketches of the players in this dark fable set on a bleak, stage-bound planet.

    Get past the stylized theatrical conventions, an inevitable by-product of budgetary concerns, and you have a gripping drama of a (perhaps too pat) cross-section of humanity caught up in the stress of unbearable fears and tensions.

    Even the archival coverage of the episode in DJS' inestimable COMPANION is some of the most cogent in that landmark book. Having trouble appreciating this entry? Listening with sympathetic attention to David's coverage and then checking out the episode again might help shade your opinion.

    Accepting its physical parameters and logistic limitations, I don't find much to dislike about this episode. It's aesthetically pleasing, and I'm in tune with most of its cynicism and borderline misanthropy anyway.

    I can't help wondering at the nature of these guys' mission; at what was supposed to be accomplished by a task force composed of five officers and a single grunt.

    The characters ARE a bit of a too-convenient lab-ready cross-sampling. But they're essayed by a grand assemblage of solid acting pros and a genre-lover's Who's Who: Ed Nelson (NIGHT OF THE BLOOD BEAST, THE BRAIN EATERS, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS). King 'B' Whit Bissell (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and too many others to mention). Willard Sage, who always looks like he's warming the part for genre-fave Fritz Weaver. PSYCHO and Twilight Zone's John Anderson, as the Ebonite Interrogator, beginning the short-list TOL tradition of burying well-known character actors under deep alien cover (Simon Oakland, John Hoyt).

    Gen. Luminoid's (Ben Wright) voice by now commands instant recognition. And that Ebonite sense-control wand might come in handy with too many audiences I've been stuck in the middle of.

    This remains a lockdown favorite, and its subtext concerning the human condition feels as valid today as ever.

  7. UTW--- Yeah, I have to agree that the staging of the ending action sequence is indefensibly lame. You can't fall back on stage convention to excuse a flouting of motion-picture integrity.

    But the "hallucination" sequences don't bother me because I assume that we're eavesdropping into a character's personal guilt-trip, and who can say how surreally bludgeoning those might be?

    I should have specifically cited the fine performances by the always charismatic, if smarmy, James Shigeta (memory-signature role: THE YAKUZA); and Bill Gunn, alternately sympathetic, sensitive and nerve-shredding, but convincing at every turn. We'll see David Frankham starch that Brit lip again in "Don't Open Till Doomsday."

  8. Yikes. Another first-tier OUTER LIMITS raked over the coals! I'm beginning to think that Peter and John are deliberately trying to provoke the rest of us... Clever ploy, guys, but we saw right through it! As everyone knows, "Nightmare" is a daring, stylized, much praised OL classic that offers an impressive ensemble (more time was spent crafting these method-like performances, and it shows) and some pretty intense "horror" moments, as befits a story involving POWs and ruthless "exotic" interrogation. As a child, I was bothered by the plot's semi-similarity to Serling's "Where is Everybody?" and thought the Ebonites were designed to be bogus, ditto the sets. When I saw the show years later, I realized that Stefano tips his hand with that brief glimpse of the observing generals quite deliberately, because the specific twist of "they're all being scrutinized by the military" is far less original and interesting than the story's true surprise, that the U.S. government used an alien mistake to set up an inhuman POW-testing experiment (a "focus test") on the alien world itself. This was amazingly subversive stuff for 1963, and both the hypocrisy and 'self-defense justification' resonate to this day ("It is all too real"). The Ebonites are appropriately demonic-looking -- Ebon might as well be Hell -- to counterpoint their apparent decency with our questionable actions. As for Jong only giving his name up front, it speaks volumes about his persona and blithely realistic attitude (just as his know-it-all smile does while Stone is giving his briefing), setting up the "Is Jong a traitor?" crisis for our guys. After all, he DOES recite poetry. Jong is also the true face of this "Nightmare," cynically aware of just how full-of-crap his fellow humans can be. And lo and behold, Stefano even plays fair with General Whit Bissell. Saying he's sorry without apologizing is another way of telling us that "we HAVE to do this sort of thing because it's our job to be prepared for a potential alien attack or war. Sorry that such horrible possibilities exist, but we didn't invent them." Well, they actually DID invent this particular lie, but it evolved out of what appeared to be a genuine alien assault, which set off understandable alarm bells ("What if the next attack is deliberate? We've got to be prepared..." etc.). Without question, Stefano skewers military secrecy and government lies, and this indictment, along with the ensemble focus, gives the episode its groundbreaking power. But Mr. S also understands why the government might want/actually need to conduct such horrendous "war games." The control voice talks about how the results of what we all just saw will be evaluated and analyzed by psychiatrists and war strategists, and that maybe, just maybe, they'll learn something of value. It's a "shrugged shoulders" summation that perfectly nails the story's moral, emotional and political conflicts. "Nightmare" is a tale that sets you up with a simple if monstrous problem -- devil-like aliens have attacked the Earth and we must fight back for survival -- and winds up asking a plethora of legitimate moral questions with no immediate answers. And while director John Erman may not be another Gerd Oswald, he puts his focus where it probably should be, on the performances of his ensemble cast. BTW, this entire scenario must've been inspired by a classic World War II movie called THE PURPLE HEART, with Dana Andrews in the Ed Nelson role, people like Richard Conte and Farley Granger as members of his captured unit, and Japanese nasties as the original Ebonites. It's a good film with obvious parallels to "Nightmare," and it's worth checking out in general.

  9. Despite the souring of this episode with some above, it remains as one of the most best-remembered of the shows, and one that defines the show's essence as well as any other single. There's a spare, Brechtian ambiance here, and a subtle, pervading tension, that also serves THE BELLERO SHIELD and FORMS OF THINGS UNKNOWN quite well. The script is one of the best of teh series, and one a jaded viewer will take issue with the dated aspects of the politics. It's stark and disorienting, and it's central alien is one of the show's most unforgettable. I own the TV Land action figure, in fact.

  10. Yep, Gary, it's frustrating to read some of the new-found disdain. But they are WRONG I must say.

  11. Tempted to jump in here, but I have a Spotlight coming up, so I'll pull a Martin Sheen and hold my tongue.

  12. There's definitely a parallax between the viewers/posters who revel in the achievements of this series as an inspired level of artistry ("Thriller" was tired-veteran-created PRODUCT, TOL was energized-innovator-created ART), and those who just want to 'have a larf' as Ricky Gervais would say.

    No worries, it all works.

    But if you go in primed for snark, that may be all you're likely to find. Shit, I'm more guilty of this than most, having spent my early career trashing sacred Hollywood genres in film and TV for National Lampoon. It's a lot easier to mock than make the effort to find meaning in the orignal artist's intent. And it's tough when someone else's sacred cow is another person's prime rump roast.

    If John and Peter can make us laugh at the 'Ebonite's New Clothes,' than all the power to them, because there's some fantastic richness and appreciation in these posts that follow.

    Thanks to those for making me fall in love with this ... art all over again

  13. I think there might be a slight misunderstanding of John & Pete’s basic covenant. Their JOB is to be provocateurs, dragging a venerated item nearly fifty years old into a 21st Century light and seeing if it still holds any water – especially for the “modern” viewer. To hurl it against the wall and see what sticks, NOT to preach to the converted or sing to the choir. There are two camps of opinion: (1) Everybody’s entitled to one, and (2) Everybody is entitled to an INFORMED one. And when some people don’t have their own, they freely spray someone else’s, repeating what sounds good or taking their “thoughts” from the pages of someone else’s book in a kind of lazy intellectual plagiarism. The point-counterpoint mission of the blog (as I interpret it) is to see what shakes loose from each of these shows, some of which have ossified through time into the kind of “accepted wisdom” you can endure in an abundance of poorly-researched outlets (where people merely perpetuate what has been said before). If John & Pete weren’t here to stir the pot, then the whole blog would just be a meaningless, rose-colored wallow in crap we already know.

    The alternative, we’ve already seen from lame blogs to bad magazines aplenty: “That movie, MEGA-SLUG VS. VIBRATORGATOR, was GREAT. Wasn’t it GREAT? A classic. That scene where the Mega-Slug first appears was totally GREAT. Those has-been TV actors were all GREAT (endlessly list GREAT credits, from IMDb). GREAT! And that one scene where the guy says, “Not on Mother’s Day, you don’t!” Totally GREAT, a classic. This movie is so GREAT I can’t even describe how GREAT it is except to note that it’s like, GREAT. GREAT use of GREAT music. GREAT clown puppets, which are GREAT. See how GREAT it is? How can you not agree it’s totally GREAT? I rate this GREAT movie … GREAT.”

    Talk about your empty calories …

    Anyway, point-counterpoint: J&P’s relentless and calculated diss of acknowledged classics compels interested parties to enumerate actual reasons WHY they feel something is GREAT … or not. Everybody’s opinion gets more informed as a byproduct, which is not a bad thing, and much more ventilating than does-it-suck-or-does-it-rock. The sheer amount of text response here is a pleasing relief from 140-character subliteracy.

    I already know why I like or dislike certain episodes, and to a certain extent this preference is expressed in the individual entries from the book (which gives me a weird kind of immunity). Argue compellingly, show your work, present your evidence ... and convince me.

  14. Irony, irony, irony... That's what makes this episode such a classic. And the ironies don't stop with the final fade-out. Some viewers believe that the true "Nightmare" of this scenario is that the people of Earth have been lied to about the presumably peace-loving Ebonites, that our first contact with extraterrestrials needs to be twisted into something tragically dark for murky purposes of (inter)national security. Then again, the "attack" on our planet has apparently unified Earth for the first time in its history, fulfilling the "Architects of Fear" scheme of fooling humans into getting along with one another. Wonderful moral question here: Is "truth" a dirty word if it sets us at our throats again? Is this sacred moral imperative more important than human life itself? If it were up to me (and this episode forces the individual to think about such things), I'd reveal the truth about the Ebonite's terrible mistake and allow humanity to breathe a collective sigh of relief... It isn't "War of the Worlds" after all, thank goodness, and what is "alien" doesn't necessarily mean "enemy" or "devil." But wouldn't this shatter our cherished Earthy peace once we know we're not fighting a common enemy? Not necessarily. We'll still be afraid (as Bissell points out) that the next off-planet attack might be deliberate, so better be prepared. And if that doesn't work and another "Thetan-like" lie is required, what if the Earthers and Ebonites work out a little white one along the lines of "Ebon is fighting a powerful alien enemy of its own, and these baddies could become our enemies, too. Better stay prepared!" For all we know, maybe the Ebonites are engaged in some exotic conflicts. And, for the record, we only have their word that the initial attack was a mistake. To quote that nice-guy Captain from THE CAINE MUTINY, "There are mistakes and there are mistakes." Indeed, who the hell knows what the political structure and agenda of the Ebonites really might be? Bottom line: The best thing a great science fiction story can do is shine a light on human behavior. "Nightmare" continues to shine that light, continues to be morality-challenging and thought-provoking half a century after it was written.


    One thing of which I have become reasonably certain: Before Joe Stefano wrote “Nightmare,” he had seen a movie called THE PURPLE HEART (1944).

    Directed by Lewis Milestone (ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS,), with a story written by gung-ho Darryl F. Zanuck under the pseudonym “Melville Crossman” and script by Jerome Cady, THE PURPLE HEART is the story of eight B-25 Mitchell bomber crewmen who are captured by the Japanese after the famous post-Pearl Harbor Dolittle raid on Tokyo. The men are subjected to a farcical murder trial, during which prosecutor General Ito Mitsubi coerces them to reveal that the raid was almost-unbelievably sourced from an aircraft carrier (since Mitchells were so large and not normally carrier-based). Torture ensues.

    Now, this might sound like one of those coincidental Kennedy-Lincoln comparisons, but bear with me.

    General Mitsubi is the Ebonite Interrogator. As PURPLE HEART is stridently patriotic in only the way World War 2-era films ABOUT World War 2 can be, he is a skull-headed, buck-toothed baldy in accordance with the most grotesque, pro-USA Warner Brothers cartoons. (That is, he even LOOKS like an Ebonite, or, to our guys, a demon.)

    The international journalists admitted to the farcically one-sided “trial” must file past and identify themselves, similarly to the “your name alone” scene at the beginning of “Nightmare.” Later, the airmen are compelled to ID themselves the same way.

    In-between sessions of the trial, the men are left to stew in a pentagonal cell (which is bugged). Every so often, one is removed in the dead of night. The first is their Captain, Ross, who hardlines Mitsubi. His men will not break. Mitsubi sneeringly reminds Ross that “a chain is no stronger than its weakest link.” The shots of the men contemplating their fate over a water bucket in the cell are very reminiscent of similar shots in “Nightmare.”

    Sgt. Skwaznik is removed. The men hear screams in the night. Skwaznik is returned in a catatonic state. The youngest airman, Clinton, says, “Do you suppose we can take it?”

    Lt. Vincent is removed … and brought back on a stretcher, unconscious.

    Lt. Canelli is removed … and brought back with his right arm broken. (As Major Jong’s arm was “pulverized” in “Nightmare.”)

    Then Sgt. Clinton – the “Dix” analogue here – is removed and returned “without a scratch” … but unable to speak. (As Pvt. Dix – also the youngest -- was returned with his voice removed.)

    Then food is brought for all of them.

    Lt. Bayforth is taken … and he returns with his hands smashed, gloved and useless.

    Sgt. Stoner recites poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Oliver Wendell Holmes — like Maj. Jong, with his haiku — and sobs into his tea … as though filled with an “ineffable sadness for all of you,” as Jong states in a bit cut from the “Nightmare” script.

    Even PURPLE HEART’s pointed use of the word “belligerent” pops out as something that might have caught Stefano’s fancy. A Chinese official who “rescues” the downed airmen and will shortly betray them to the Japanese says, “My son joins me in urging you to accept our invitation” – the same words used by the Interrogator as a prelude to his “exploratory interviews.”

    The men agree to a lottery to decide whether they shall live or die. In a nice symbolic touch, they place their airman’s wings into a vase. If one set of wings is dumped out broken in two, they will abide by the wishes of their captors.

    Our boys hang American tough, though, and instead of accepting prison camp in return for spilling the beans about the carrier, march forth to their own executions, heads held high to the rousing strains of “Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder.”

    But don’t take my word for it. THE PURPLE HEART is now available on DVD, with a good commentary track by Richard Schickel.

  16. Knowing Blamire, he'll be weighing in any second now with a spirited defense of MEGA-SLUG Vs. VIBRATORGATOR ...

  17. To all ye who would trash this episode: "CONTEXT"---historical, cultural, entertainment..whatever you want to call it...has never been more crucial in evaluating a TV show.

    The fact that this outrageous 50-minute episode ever appeared on network tv in late 1963 is reason enough to overlook it considerable flaws and marvel at its stark, stylized, brutal and truly horrifying elements. You can carp all you want about this-or-that crappy line of dialogue, the fact that the physical design looks shoddy, etc etc...but it doesn't change the fact that "NIGHTMARE" represents one of the 2 or 3 most startling and daring events in the OL canon.

    CALL ME WIMPY...but, by the time we go to commerical with the image of Krug's blank-eyed corpse hooked up to that glowing pump thing, accompanied by Frontiere's gallumping, pulsating music, I can't imagine how any first-time viewer (certainly back in 1963) wouldn't be emotionally numb, reeling in a state of mild shock.

    The stunningly-bizzare appearance of the Ebonites, the loss of the senses including blindness, the threat of physical torture (and later the real thing), heart attacks, the pit-of-the-stomach dread of the murky, other-dimensional interrogation room...and that creeping, paralyzing feeling that you are ENTIRELY vulnerable, UTTERLY defenseless in this strange and hostile environment (by the time Bill Gunn has delivered his gut-wrenching
    speech re: Krug's corpse...veering between a sort of dulcet passivity and primal howling...I'm ready to turn the damned TV off and go do something else).

    Add to it the strikingly bare, expressionistic production--a dramatic masterstroke of theatricality (the "up-side" of budgetary constraints) and Frontiere's hallucinatory score, and you have a piece of TV drama that is way...and I mean WAY off the charts in its daring & originality for 1963. Like the title says--it's a N_____M_____, totally unreal, disorienting, chew-off-your-finger-nails style. Is the rabbi/nazi thing Serling-esque? Probably. But, really..who cares? Why not take a drink from the Ebonite water cup, put aside our too-rational concerns and join these sorry individuals on their harrowing journey, the first 10 minutes of which launches a physical and mental assault that few of us would survive? And remember---we're not watching it in some early 60's experimental black-box theater or fancy art-house's on ABC TV in prime time!!

    HAVING SAID ALL OF THIS---yeah, the episode has definite problems, all of which have been cited here...and repeated viewings only serve to amplify them. But CONTEXT, guys...the sheer boldness of this particular episode and what it represented to the American public who sat down in front of their Tvs in December '63 (less than a month after one of our nation's most traumatic events), is something we should all bear in mind when the temptation to slash-and-burn kicks in.


  18. I tend to get lost up my own Outer Limits when I think/talk/write about this show, so John and Peter's irreverence is refreshing even when it doesn't jibe with my opinion of an episode. There's always something valid in what they say (damn them), so I wouldn't have it any other way. Snark away, guys.

    As for "Nightmare," I've always wanted it to be one of my favorites but it's never happened. I find its various components shocking and brilliant, especially the condemnatory yet open-ended nature of Stefano's brave teleplay (favorite line, courtesy of Willowmore: "No, sir, promises just roll off my back"), the conception of the Ebonites, and Frontiere's uncharacteristic score. But it just doesn't come together for me; unlike the episodes I love I always know I'm watching a performance here, and never once get a sense that this artificiality is 100% pointed or intentional. At some point I inevitably start noticing the texture of the studio floor or the way the material covering the "rock" walls creases (this time around I detected Bissell struggling with the star chart on his computer/monitor device), and that's a big tip-off to me. Sorry.

    Walker Martin: My brother David (who is a fan of this episode) makes a convincing case that the international, multi-ethnic composition of the United Earth strikeforce is anything but politically correct here:

    Shameless plug, maybe, but worth reading.

  19. David, re: MEGA-SLUG Vs. VIBRATORGATOR, I would but I'm still trying to figure out the slugtext.

  20. Au contraire, Herr Holcomb -- ALL of the writeups on this "stealth OUTER LIMITS site" are worth reading, especially in tandem with the illuminations offered here. Indeed, they should be re-considered as "alternate spotlights" to our present concerns.

    Thanks to David's writeup I don't have to belabor the thorny point of the crew's multi-ethnicity, or conduct a mini-seminar to bring readers up to speed on the amazing Bill Gunn (whose novel, RHINESTONE SHARECROPPING, I recommend).

    (And I knew Herr Rapchak just wouldn't be able to stay silent about why the music is so groundbreaking ... thereby saving me another time-gobbling digression.)

    There's a link to this fabulousity over on the right at the head of each of these entries ... be sure to check out the Holcomb's spot-on parodies of the OUTER LIMITS gum cards, as well.

  21. There's not much more that I can add that Ted and Sam haven't already stated in their spot on observations above.

    It has a hallucinatory, Brechtian essence, shorn of all all that's not necessary. And the actors sell it with a magnificent ensemble that really pushes the limits of physical torture though anguished performances only.

    And whilst Connie Hall might not have been around, it still looks far richer in it's BW shading than 'Twilight Zone' hours.

    As for it's cynicism, it's a million miles from 'The 100 Hundred of the Dragon'. TOL is the only show that I can think of that actually questioned the military and state apparatus. This is before the lies of the JFK assassination, Vietnam, the Pentagon papers, Watergate, Iran-contra and the 911 commission.

    In fact, the year before - Kennedy had vetoed a plan by the US Joints Chiefs of Staff 'Northwoods Plan';

    RE: "Operation Northwoods, or Northwoods, was a series of false-flag operation proposals that originated within the United States government in 1962. The proposals called for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or other operatives to commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities and elsewhere. These acts of terrorism were to be blamed on Cuba in order to create public support for a war against that nation, which had recently become communist under Fidel Castro. One part of Operation Northwoods was to "develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington."

    What's so bracing is that TOL did this all before any of this was revealed...and would do it again and again. Adult, provocative, edgy and stimulating.

    It's flaws could be that it doesn't rely on a concept that is unique to SF, in that the script could easily be rewritten and set in the Korean War or other Earth bound conflict without the unique schism that SF starts off with. In this way, it's has echoes of a small period of C.M. Kornbluth's short fiction and if was good enough for Kornbluth, then it's good enough for TOL. The only other gripe would be the rushed, hazy ending and the way everything freezes. something that worked in 'OBIT' but is not so appropriate here.

  22. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 21, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    For those who've had their senses manipulated into believing "Nightmare" to be a bigwig in the OUTER LIMITS chain of command, allow me to break the spell by busting it down to buck private where it belongs.

    "Nightmare"'s schema is nearly as black and white as John Nickolaus' film stock: the Earth generals represent a manipulative and morally cretinous Pentagon; the Ebonites are initially scary but ultimately misunderstood foreigners who turn out to be victims of American exploitation.

    The sardonic dude is innocent. The mom/flag/apple pie guy is the squealer. The satanic-looking figures are misjudged. The traditional authority figures are corrupt.

    Despite the pretext of a fighting Unified Earth, the fact that the only visible war game devisers and monitors are exclusively American suggests that Stefano was trying to rip the U.S. military (and only the U.S. military) a new one with his critical scalpel.

    If techniques for resisting torture became indistinguishable from torture it would be perfectly reasonable to raise the pen against the sword.

    But "Nightmare" isn't just an editorial against excessive military testing, it's a protest against military readiness in toto. (If you think that's a bit of a stretch, I'll be jamming from half court with Plastic Man ease before I'm through.)

    The key to unlocking this episode can be found in the false dilemma presented by the Control Voice, "So long as Man anticipates and prepares for combat, be it with neighboring nations or with our neighbors in space, these unreal games must be played..."

    Yet, "Nightmare"'s obvious point of view is that these games should not be played; therefore, "Nightmare"'s deeper point of view is that we should not be anticipating or preparing for combat.

    Maybe I've missed the mark—like a yellowed toilet rim in the aftermath of an old man's weak stream—but the Control Voice wrap-up seems to lead to this conclusion: If military preparedness requires stress testing, and stress testing is unconscionable, then preparedness is untenable. Defense is indefensible.

    When Pvt. Dix experiences a hallucination of his mother, the illusionary wall behind "her" is described in the script as being wall-papered with "soldiers and other childish things." Since soldiers fulfill the Constitution's call to "provide for the common defense," and soldiering is described as childish, the implication is that national defense is childish.

    Nightmare"'s goal is to make it's audience feel chary toward the familiar and charitable toward the unfamiliar.

    As the episode's rigged events cast the government in an aggressive light, notice how the words "neighboring" and "neighbors" in the tag speech ascribe neutral or agreeable qualities to the outlander.

    It was essential the attack on Earth be contrived as an accident, otherwise "Nightmare"'s house of cards collapses faster than Lt. Krug at a Holocaust survivors' convention. Had the attack been deliberate, the allied forces would've been justified in opening up an industrial-(military complex)-size can of whoop-ass.

    If the aim of honest drama is to use imagination and artistry to offer insights into the real world, the cardhouse collapses anyway. Conspiracy theories aside, the fact that wars aren't touched off by accidental strikes (the USS Maine may have exploded due to accident—but not accidental strike) means that Stefano's construct bears so little resemblance to reality, it's about as useful as a snooze bar on a smoke detector.

  23. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 21, 2011 at 2:09 PM

    Joseph Stefano was a unique and gifted writer with a flair for quotable dialogue and an admirably funky method for generating storylines. Unfortunately, he confused worldly-wiseness with self-gratifying paranoia when he treated those who guard against our enemies as the real enemies.

    By applying nearly as much distortion to his script as John Elizalde applied to the Ebonite's voice, Stefano, in an attempt to disenchant us out of our fool's paradise, deluded himself into a fool's dystopia.

    Nobody needs to feel like a hero more than an antihero. And paranoia is the Elysian Fields of the mind. Real men should not play unreal games.

    Generally, when soldiers in the postmodern cause allow familiarity to breed contempt and subversive reflexiveness to weight evenhandedness, they reveal more about themselves than the targets in their sniper scopes. Camouflaged behind greasepaint coatings of cynicism and disabusement crouch naive idealism and irrational allophilia.

    Of course, waving the white flag to the devil you don't know and a black flag to the devil you do isn't a court-marshaling offense—just an offense to intelligence.

    Trying to pass off windmill-tilting as edgy insights into the ways of the world has more to do with defending a castle in Spain than storming the ramparts of U.S. hegemony.

    Using smoke and mirrors and cinematic wizardry (or, in "Nightmare"'s impoverished case, dime store magic tricks) to give materialization to a bad faith pipe dream, makes an existentialist filmmaker culpable of conjuring the kind of false consciousness he's supposedly pulling back the curtain on.

    On the heels of an era when Nazi, Imperial Japanese, and Soviet regimes proved the necessity of a vigilant military, Stefano, like a legerdemainist, misdirected attention away from a non-pacifist world, and toward his trumped up charges against the U.S. military in an effort to invert suspicion from without to within.

    But I was keeping track of both hands. Naw, I don't much trust the government. But I sure as hell don't trust Hollywood.

  24. Whoops, whilst I was typing this up, David comes up with a WWII film that makes the same point about my Korean war scenario.

    Larry, whilst I agree that it's enjoyable and sometimes important to know the historical in which the film or show was released, this doesn't negate criticism when something has dated, otherwise every silent film would still wow, rather than 'The Gold Rush', 'The General', 'The Kid Brother', 'Sunrise'. Most great films and TV don't need context whatsoever, they just speak anew to who ever watches it. I can see TOL dazzling 150 years from now, the way 'Citizen Kane', 'The Shop Around the Corner' and 'Double Indemnity' have. It's the very definition of a classic, for me, that which survives and lingers and sings to a new generations.

    I remember one time, I had a teenage worker scoff at the BW movies in my bag and I gave then to watch, he came back completely hooked and asking for more. And about ten years later, I had another who showed a similar attitude towards BW so I had made a 8 video tape with 'The Man Who Was Never Born', Walking Distance', 'The Hungry Glass, Pidgeons from Hell, Where No Man Has Gone Before', 'Lord Arthur Saville's Crime', ect, ect. He came back a believer. No context.

    Some things are going to date. The cynicism here has dated, but has been supplemented by an avalanche of other works; Seven Day in May, Seconds, The Parallax View, All The President's Men, Washington Behind Closed Doors, JFK, ect.

    But Stefano's point here has an edge; the the dredging, horrifying torture of noble grunts versus the indifference of the high command. Reminds me of Kubrick's 'Paths of Glory'.

    It's a hugely admirable segment, perhaps not as loveable and re-watchable as those other great classics, but then torture never is and especially when it is so disorientating.

  25. John, you might want to read up on the "False Flag" operations such as 'Operation Northwoods' and maybe a touch of Noam Chomsky.

    Hell, I'll give you another link, this one is about the "Business Plot" in the mid '30s by US industrials and bankers, including Prescott Bush (father and grandfather to two Presidents). The General Smedly Butler called in by the plotters revealed it to the White House and FDR survived. He later wrote a book stating that "War is a racket". Amazing how many wars get started on flimsy grounds that always benefit corporations! :

    here is a You Tube video on a BBC Documenatry on the same subject. It's one of the greatest stories, but you won't find it out in your history books.

  26. All the way back to the beginning of A Thriller a Day, John and I have had one goal: to entertain. I hope we do that now and then. I like to think of us (as I've probably said before) as The Knack on stage before The Beatles come out for the headliner. David J. Schow wrote THE definitive statement on The Outer Limits. No one will ever top that. Why would we try?

    We're not deliberately dissing your favorite episodes (if that were the case, wouldn't we have ripped new ones out of "Architects" and "The Man What Was Never Even Born?") to get a rise out of you. That's not our goal. When we sit down at our respective TV screens (mine about 40 inches, John's about 200), we each gauge what the particular episode does for us. Was it scary...creepy...atmospheric...filled with chunky dialogue...nonsensical...boring...whatever? I can't wave a wand and magically become a 49 year old (or a 10 year old for that matter) sitting in front of a black and white TV. It ain't gonna happen.

    I've never been one to watch a movie, head for Leonard Maltin's guide, see what he says, and then form my opinion based on his. I thought CITIZEN KANE was pretentious crap. Give me I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF instead. Best movie of the last ten years? THE SOCIAL NETWORK? CRASH? MILLION DOLLAR BABY? SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE? Nope. THE DARK KNIGHT. That's my pick. I could watch that flick over and over again and you guys would probably pick it apart and tell me why it doesn't work. Isn't that great?

    I guess what I'm trying to say with this rambling diatribe is that if you want me to open up David's book and dogear the ones he likes and then follow suit, you came to the wrong place.

    I (red heart) you guys. So who really liked The Zanti Misfits? :>

    1. I LIKED The Zanti Misfits. Main word LIKED... Not LOVED...

  27. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 21, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    The actors playing the POWs resemble fighting men in the same way a bare sound stage resembles a planetscape.

    More trouper than trooper, these guys aren't even able to convincingly march in single file.

    In the actor hierarchy, the role of Lt. Krug is only a few totems higher than cannon fodder: he's nearly as much of a nonentity as his unseen brother in arms, Astro-Marshall Heinrich Heller.

    Bill Gunn isn't given a heck of a lot to do either, though I must confess, Lt. Willowmore's breakdown while attempting to describe his witnessing of Lt. Krug's corpse delivers a swift horsekick to the family jewels.

    As Stefano's author surrogate, James Shigeta spreads on the plum sauce a bit thick. Major Jong's smirk is to cynicism what moustache-twirling is to villainy.

    Martin Sheen's portrayal of Pvt. Dix is so one note, it's a wonder he can muster the additional thirteen notes it takes to hum "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" during his meltdown.

    Don't let David Frankham's British accent fool you into thinking there's anything particularly stately or elegant about his performance. This guy received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Advanced Histrionics from the William A. Shatner Academy of Performing Arts.

    As a believable leader of men, Ed Nelson deserves an honorable discharge for his understated tour of duty as Col. Stone.

    Stefano staffed his script with more straw men than a Kansas cornfield, then torched them in effigy with pyromaniacal glee.

    The character of Pvt. Dix is so relentlessly reductivist, he barely meets the minimum dimensional requirements needed to even appear on a two-dimensional TV screen.

    Were there dicks like Dix in real life? Sure. Given his psychological profile, would they have graduated from U.S. Astral Force Academy? Surely not.

    Stefano's line, "An uneducated man rarely refuses the opportunity to speak," betrays a thumbless grasp of human nature. Generally, reticence, not glibness, characterizes the uninstructed. It is the credentialed class who never shuts the fuck up.

    The likelihood of some of "Nightmare"'s plot developments falls somewhere between the odds of Loverboy ever getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the odds I'll someday get over my fear of hirsute women:

    1. A general thinks poetry recitation reveals a bent toward traitorousness. (This guy's an old enough hand to know that warrior poets sometimes make the meanest mammer-jammers.)

    2. Based on flimsy evidence, soldiers take the matter of executing a suspected traitor into their own hands. (To put this eye-roller into perspective: since 1865, only one American has been executed for treason.)

    3. The Chief of Staff draws down on and threatens to kill an unarmed man. (The POWs have been controlled throughout the episode by non-lethal Ebonite wands, but for the climax — out pops a semi-automatic.)

    4. Capt. Brookman blows away the Chief of Staff.

    Capt. Brookman told Col. Stone he didn't think the Ebonites were real. In that case, what made him think he could gun down an illusion? What's the point of throwing lead at a figment? And wouldn't it be dangerous to do so since Lt. Willowmore was standing directly behind the Chief? Had the Chief of Staff been a Will-o'-the-wisp, Will-o-more is no more.

  28. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 21, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    Since we live in a culture where therapeutic alienation and calisthenic cynicism are the yawn-inducing norms, "Nightmare"'s oppositionalist nature now seems second nature.

    The degree to which "Nightmare"'s themes ran cross-grained to the sensibilities of 1963 television is something a person closer to salad days than golden years can't have a good feel for.

    I can, however, recognize that Stefano's script, despite its deck-stacking, is superior to the subliterate crap pop culture pinches off on a regular basis.

    Dominic Frontiere's score is so uncanny, so unexampled, it's as if he divined a forbidden musical scale consisting of godforsaken notes — making him a conductor in more ways than one.

    Looking like they dismounted a cathedral perch and swooped down to take over a vacant movie set, the Ebonite grotesques are super-cool (and given their air of superiority, too cool for (military) school).

    Any one of five changes could have saved this episode from being scooped out of the top drawer and flung into the middle drawer:

    1. Had Byron Haskin (who was originally slated to direct) helmed it.

    2. Had it not been Conrad Hall's week off.

    3. Had Jack Poplin redressed "Moonstone"'s lunar sets.

    4. Had the dialogue made clear that the POWs believed the visions they were experiencing were not pure hallucinations, but instead Ebonites using hypnotic suggestion to impersonate humans. With this amendment, Capt. Brookman's gunplay at the finale is no longer a WTF? moment.

    5. Had a double twist ending revealed that Ebon really did strike first: the Ebonites merely pretended their strike was an accident, hoping to be "coerced" into a war games situation — so they could get their kicks torturing humans with impunity.

    Speaking of kicks... To me, conjugating a verb comes dangerously close to edgeplay.

    But if you enjoy: being strung up by your thumbs on a telegraphed punchline; having heavy-handedness grip your genitals like an electrode attachment; or having (sc)reeds shoved under your fingernails — then your safeword is... "friend grasshopper."

  29. I hope everyone has read Peter's comment where he talks about what he and John are trying to do with this OUTER LIMITS website(and THRILLER also). If they were just talking about these shows if a scholarly way, I'd probably ignore their comments or just glance at them. But they use wit and humor to entertain the viewer and this makes me want to view the episodes each night and then read their review the next day.

    If they were not witty and funny, hell I'd just read THE OUTER LIMITS COMPANION and watch the show myself. Peter and John know these shows were meant to be fun and entertaining. Occasionally the episodes scare and surprise us with good acting and stories. Often, the shows are misfires or disappointing but that's network TV for you. When you consider the crazy weekly schedule and ratings pressure, we should be grateful for the outstanding episodes we do manage to see.

    Alfred Bester wrote a novel in 1954 about the TV business which shows how bizarre the whole industry is. If you think two of the best SF novels are DEMOLISHED MAN and STARS MY DESTINATION, then also read WHO HE?, otherwise known as RAT RACE.

  30. bobby J--

    No argument with your post; I have this same discussion about music fairly often. There are those who say: "I don't give a damn about the background: WHY the music was written, WHAT the composer was thinking, etc...all I care about is whether I like it or not!"- which is, of course, the ultimate test. I'm not going to spend time watching a piece of crap just because it has an interesting backstory, and I wouldn't expect anyone else to do so.

    In the case of Nightmare, its "historic" achievement only goes so far in excusing its flaws. After must stand on its own merits. I'm only urging that we retain some perspective in this regard as we render our opinion/judgements.

  31. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 21, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    In 1968, John Erman directed an episode of STAR TREK entitled "The Empath," whose mise en scène was virtually identical to "Nightmare"'s. (Hey, if Erman had a fetish for naked sound stages/torture/big-headed aliens, who am I to judge the twisted little freak?)

    Also in 1968, Joseph Stefano was offered the job of producing STAR TREK's third season. Had he accepted the producership, Stefano could have hired Erman, been disappointed in his work, and given him the boot all over again.

    Can you imagine the "Trek" universe as reinvisioned by Joe Stefano?

    In one episode, the supposedly democracy-loving United Federation of Planets is revealed to have been constructing Brave New World scenarios throughout the cosmos.

    In another segment, seemingly sadistic aliens have been coerced by Starfleet into torturing the Enterprise crew as part of a war games experiment. (OK, so Stefano had writer's block and resorted to some recycling. Having just quit Freudian analysis, his stream of consciousness ran a little dry.)

    Just think: abiding faith in humanity — out; anxiety and watchfulness — in.

    Upbeat candy colors — out; Mario Bava high-contrast saturation — in.

    Fisticuffs — out; passive-aggression — in.

    Hot mini-skirted yeomans and seducible alien babes — out; Nina Foch, Gail Kobe, and Olive Deering — in.

    Humanoid aliens — out; Project Unlimited — back in business, baby.

    We can all agree that had Joe Stefano produced a third of the "Trek" catalogue, it would still have gone on to become one of the biggest franchises in entertainment history...

    1. It would probably still be on today in it's 44th year of original episodes, Stefano producing from beyond no doubt.

  32. "Had a double twist ending revealed that Ebon really did strike first: the Ebonites merely pretended their strike was an accident, hoping to be "coerced" into a war games situation — so they could get their kicks torturing humans with impunity."....comes close to far right Neo-Con wish fulfilment, Which would have made the show no better than errant thick-ear nonsense such as 'Mission Impossible' and 'The FBI'.

  33. "Humanoid aliens — out; Project Unlimited — back in business, baby." wonderfully fanciful

  34. Just got back from work and am now on the way to a tavern. Wow! Looks like I missed a lot of comments!

    David- Thanks for the response. I kind of figured that was the reason why, but needed a more scholarly gentlemen such as yourself to confirm.

    Ted- Glad I wasn't the only one that thought it was badly staged. I don't care if it was made today or a century ago. No excuses for poorly executed action, no matter how many martinis were drank on the set.

    1. I don't agree with Ultimate Tactical Warrior about the episode, but I do agree about one thing. If I don't like something about an earlier piece of entertainment (unless it's something "they didn't have the technology to do etc."), I try not to give it that much of a pass because of WHEN it was made. A lot of the time, if I'm not lucky, that can turn into a kind of "patronizing."
      Luckily, I AM very attached to this episode.

  35. John Townsley RiddleJanuary 21, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Bobby J —

    Making the Ebonites less simon-pure and more Simon Legree wouldn't exonerate the loathesome Earth generals: they would have no inkling of the Ebonites secret sadism until long after they had blackmailed Ebon and conspired against Earth soldiers.

    Perhaps my double-twist daydream is too nihilistic, but it's not gold at the end of a right-wing rainbow.

    In spite of the aborted Operation Northwoods plan, the unrealized (and unproven) Business Plot, and the insectile screed-slinging of Prof. Chomsky, "Nightmare's" ultra-hyperbolic depiction of an evil U.S. military (pulverizing the limbs of their own men, remorselessly inducing coronaries, blackmailing entire civilizations) is so incommensurate with real world sins, it constitutes a stolen base on the script's part. (The script tried to steal home; I tried to pick it off.)

    We probably don't agree on a lot Bobby J, but love for The OUTER LIMITS should be able to smooth any discord into harmony.

  36. John good points...

    As for the Business Plot, I'd rather believe General Butler than Prescott Bush and his corporate ilk.
    Chomsky, love him or hate him - destroys any that come across him with detailed but incisive arguments using official documentation.

    'Nightmare' doesn't even go into real horrors; such as the military in the US and UK exposing their own soldiers to radiation to see it's effects. Testing agent orange against civilians in 'nam, using depleted Uranium in the Gulf War and it's sequel (poisoning their own soldiers) leading to 'Gulf War Syndrome', let alone the LSD used against civilians seeking psychological help from US and Canadian hospitals, US coups against the democratically elected leaders of Iran (on the behalf of BP), Chile (for the Coke and the United Fruit company), ect, ect.

    You may find this interesting, one of the most fascinating documentaries in the last ten years:

    I get your point on the Ebonites,

    Anyway, I agree that though we may differ politically, our love of 'The Outer Limits' will always prevail. I do hope you post more often, I've enjoyed their wit and colour and provocative stimulation they induce.

  37. Bobby, thanks for the mention of S.D. Butler, a true (largely unsung) hero, throughout his life never afraid to speak truth, no matter how unpopular.

  38. Oh, come on, Peter--

    As long as you're actually SCORING these episodes, the least you could have done was poop out a couple more Zanti droppings as an award for "originality" in the case of Nightmare. You know..."A for effort", like we used to get on our report cards.

  39. I was away for the rest of yesterday, and am adding this late now, so perhaps no one will come back and see it, but let me add my thanks to Peter and John as well. Your introductions are a welcome and necessary counterpoint (and instigation, intended or not) to the serious huffing and puffing that some of us are expounding down here in the turmoil of the comments gallery. Please keep on keeping on!

    I also can't help but comment again on how amazing it is that this show, now nearly FIFTY years old, still provokes the kind of emotion and dissertation that we're seeing in each day's blog (especially like the comments yesterday). I've said before that I don't really understand why the Outer Limits grabbed me so implacably as a kid (that is, why OL instead of Combat? Or why science fiction instead of baseball, or something else?) It wasn't peer pressure--I found it on my own. What made the developing cells of my brain attach so deeply to this particular show in a way unmatched by any of the other passions I've had in life? I still don't really comprehend this, but this blog is helping to put things in perspective, and it's reassuring to see that I was not alone.

    Finally, to wrap up this overtly mushy and gushy post, I think that I detect a lot of the writers here wrestling with the same thing that I struggle with. One part of me wants to watch these episodes with the same unalloyed, nonjudgmental joy that I approached them with as a kid (the simplistic "that was great" "it was GREAT" "it was really GREAT" inarticulateness described by DJS above that must have been how MOST of us first responded to this way back when--I mean, none of us knew from Conrad Hall or Byron Haskins at age nine, right?). But the other part of me can't ignore everything that's happened since--all that I've seen and experienced personally, and all that we all have experienced together as the real world and the entertainment world changed completely from what we all once knew--which inevitably shades every element of these shows as we look at them now. The episodes are always the same; they never change. We are what changes, and at least some of what we're yakking about in these posts is us trying to come to grips with that. (I think, anyway.)

    Well, having pooped all that out, I can only close with "The OL was GREAT! It was really GREAT!"

  40. How about INC for incomplete? They still give those? :>

  41. Welcome to a new century of standards based grading!

    "A for effort," does not cut it in a system with No Bear Left Behind.
    "Incomplete" would not be appropriate since the episode was completed.

    This show merits SP: Shows Progress towards expectations (2 Zantis)

    Other grades available:
    E=Exceeds Expectations (4 Zantis)
    M=Meets Expectations (3 Zantis)
    N=Not making appropriate progress (1 sad Zanti in time out)

    Half Zantis come in the form of + or - added to letter grades. So you can see how the Zanti rating system aligns perfectly with standards based grading.

  42. Here seems as good a place as any to mention another of THE OUTER LIMITS' staunchest fans — Tracy Torme, who "reinterpreted" the themes of "The Invisibles" into an episode of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION as "Conspiracy," and who worked on the story that eventually became the script for the Canadian OUTER LIMITS (or "NOTer LIMITS," as we like to call it around here) remake of Stefano's "Nightmare" -- a passion project that Tracy had also tried to get off the launch pad as theatrical feature. The 1998 remake is a fair 43-minute chunk of tension with clear ties to the source material ... except for the incredibly misconceived twist-on-a-twist conclusion, done during a period when virtually every other NOTer episode ended by blowing up the entire Earth, which was that series' idea of "irony."

    (This "bomb" mentality was appropriate only insofar as this week's explosion / blowup / whiteout was always followed immediately by the names of the executive producers, in an irony so huge they never perceived it.)

    In an alternate universe scenario, Tracy would have — SHOULD have — been handed the producer reins for a modern version of THE OUTER LIMITS, and as a result we all might have a few more decent shows to discuss. He had (and still has, I presume) just the right creative DNA for such an enterprise.

    (Instead, we got endless ham-fisted reiterations of "he tampered in God's domain." Plus misbegotten remakes of "Feasibility Study," "I, Robot" and "The Inheritors.")

    Tracy also hosted some very memorable OUTER LIMITS nights in his downstairs screening room, where we unspooled my 16mm prints of the show.

    1. This mirrors a lot of what I have always thought. I always thought the Next Generation episode "Conspiracy" was a 24th Century version of "The Invisibles". The Outer Limits should be tried again. This time it should stay true to the original series and by that I mean season one. It should be shot in Black and White, if that's even ALLOWED anymore and be original with the bears, if one is even needed. I would love to see "The Man Who Was Never Born" redone with the original ending. I would love to see "Production/Decay" reworked and "solvable", and a filming of "Little Mother Of All The World". Somehow, some way, use Dominic Frontiere's music from the first season or commission music that is very similar. Besides the cheapness of season2 , one of it's main failings was the Harry Lubin music (except for "Demon" which was brilliant) and the Canadian series just missed on everything, especially the music. If possible maybe bring Vic Perrin back from beyond and DO NOT make another Zanti Misfits! Nightmare could almost be remade as POW's in North Korea but I think the Ebonites are a nicer more humane race.

  43. It's funny that there are some complaints about the Krug and his grandfather part and I don't have a problem with that part, because with the me it's usually just the opposite. I almost constantly have the feeling that that subject of Nazi Germany gets squeezed edgewise into stories (instead of being used in a way that really "works"), but to me, that part DOES work. Maybe in less of a dramatic way and more of a "melodramatic" way, but I still like it.
    I always like the way Jong goes out of his way to make the others dislike him, even at the very beginning, when he's the only one to cooperate with that "Your name only" order. And of course when they're finally accusing him of being the informer, he defends himself, but in such a CASUAL way -
    Jong : It was probably Krug.
    Stone : Why Krug?
    Jong : Why not Krug?

  44. Jong : The dead make such lovely scapegoats.

    A great great classic Outer Limits episode! I love it! I rate this at the top of my best list, right next to "Demon with a Glass Hand". How many Zantis do we have to work with? 4? Then this gets 4 Zantis from me (and anyone who doesn't agree deserves an interview with Mr. Ebonite the interrogator). Everything is good! The writing, the direction (despite what Stefano says. Of course, I'd have loved to see how Byron Haskin would do it.), the cinematography. The acting (this is where I became a fan of Martin Sheen. I love his laugh!). The Dominic Frontiere music. The costumes. And Wow, what a great twist at the end!! Just phenomenal!

    I am so curious what it would have looked like if it had been closer to what Joe Stefano was imagining when he wrote it. Could that have made it even better??

    Peter Enfantino rates this ½ Zanti (and he gave Tourist Attraction 2½ Zantis)! Un-f***ing-believable! Could I be that lousy at judging the quality of TV scifi drama? Either that, or I must be in the Twilight Zone ...

  45. Came across this thread under search "Willard Sage looks like John Anderson." Right now watching 1958 Maverick episode "Day of Reckoning". Looked up cast, expecting to see John Anderson. Instead look-alike and sound-alike Willard Sage.

  46. When you're an 8 year old kid seeing this for the first time in 1963 it leaves a deep impression on you. Still my all time favorite episode of The Outer Limits. I'm glad I was able to see it as a young impressionable kid. Over the years I came to understand it's failings but will always have the initial vision and the memory of it's initial airing. Dominic Frontiere's music is far ahead of it's time and exemplifies how brilliant he was. 4 Zantis.

  47. 1/2 Zanti.
    This is an overwrought, hysterical, earnest (boy is it ever) episode. I didn't buy the way they all turned on each other. God that obo-like or whatever it is music in the background is as annoying as the musical effects in Controlled Experiment. A study of terrorism given today's clime seems timely, but it just goes on and on. And on. The sets are lame, Conrad Hall's ph is sorely missed. The alien voice sounded familiar, I couldn't put my finger on it, I never would have guessed it was John Anderson. I knew all along the U.S. was involved in the torture, but I wrongly guessed the alien was a fake. Still a letdown.

  48. Seeing THIS ONE on Monstervision for the first time, well, I don't count no flaws, even if there are any. I was 10, and, spare sets or no, it was astounding....To Mr, DSJ: Found 'Purple Heart' on cable not too long ago, thank you for mentioning it here. That one IS hard to watch, but I was compelled....To Mr Riddle: ST without MINISKIRTS AND BOOTS? Amazing how many beautiful women never 'rock' this style. If I was a chick, that's all I'd wear. I only wish Mr.Ed lastedlong enough to get Connie Hines into those....oh well...

    that combo

  49. I agree.
    The poster said that if Stefano had taken over Star Trek, the "wrong" actresses actresses (visually, at least) would have ended up in those uniforms. But it goes both ways - since it's Stefano, just imagine for a moment JOANNA FRANK in one of those uniforms, maybe even "threatening" the fabric of it just a little.

  50. I think there might be one small problem with the idea that the story tries to "rip the U.S. military (and only the U.S. military) a new one." It always seems to me that the British officer played by Ben Wright ISN'T a hallucination (unlike the army psychiatrist and that one prisoner, since they're played by the same actor). So if I'm right about that, there's at least SOME non-American involvement behind the whole thing.

    There's one thing I think could have worked for the ending, though people who already hate the story's attitude toward the generals and the Ebonites would probably hate this even more. I think it would've been even sadder if the men had succeeded in killing the Ebonite leader, since he was in the middle of trying to END the whole thing.

  51. So many of my favorites are hated when you look up reviews online. Others are just not very well known...


    I reccomend them all! I'm sure there's more I just don't yet have in my collection...

  52. Hate being late to these review parties, but I DID watch these all first run as a young kid, if that counts for anything... I still haven't connected with Nightmare yet. Can't put my finger on why. Just isn't one of my faves. I don't like the "soundstage" look of so much of it. Guess I don't find the story to be that engrossing. Ok, so maybe it's just me. But that's my capsule feelings about it-

  53. There's one particular reason for liking this episode more all the time, but it's kind of a sensitive one. bobby j's comment above about "false flag operations" makes that part of the story more RELEVANT all the time (and not just starting in the last eighteen months).

  54. I guess this would be called a “bottle” episode; that is, one that is restricted to just a few sets to save money. But the production values here are minimal in the extreme; they must have saved a ton of money! Though I will say, that I thought the alien masks were kind of cool; effectively demonic.

    I don’t know that I’ve disagreed with the general opinion on any other Outer Limits episode as much as I do with this one. It seems to be held in high regard, but I thought this psychological drama failed to deliver.
    My very first thought was, how on earth was anyone even able to get to this planet, given that travel to anyplace beyond the solar system is basically impossible; this was never explained. Also, a ship containing an invasion force of just six men? How were they to subdue an entire planet of hostile aliens?

    I knew there was going to be some sort of twist ending, but the journey to that twist seemed so dull and talky, full of highly artificial dialogue; I just wasn’t engaged by what was happening on-screen. And in the end, what was the point of this entire experiment? What was the military hoping to learn here, that they hadn’t already been able to directly observe during all the previous earth-bound wars?

    So yeah, while viewing these in broadcast order, this is easily my least-favourite episode so far.

  55. It is so interesting reading the different reviews of those old enough to have seen the original broadcasts (especially as youngsters) and the CGI generation and the tweeners. Trust me - these episodes were terrifying stuff for a 6-year-old at the time. IF my father would allow me to watch, which normally he didn't. I had to settle for Saturday reruns some years later. And they were STILL scary as hell. Looking back at this one, it's still amazing how they sold the minimalist planet. SOOOOOOO much better that fake plants, etc. The episode does have a few warts (the Jewish hallucination) but the acting is superb in spots. The sight restoration scene in particular. Martin Sheen isn't quite up to the task, but the rest of the ensemble are. On my Top 12 list


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